So this morning I had an email from Goodreads.com with the question in the title. Below is my answer. I felt that it was long enough to be a blog post of its own.
I really had to think about this one, since as you can see by my bookshelves, romance novels are not really my cup of tea. And really I so rarely see truly healthy relationships in books and other media that even if I do like a couple, I'd rather not put them out there to be used as an example. The couples I like in books tend to be star-crossed lovers or snarkers where they are constantly teasing each other even when they deal with their issues. For example, Fang and Aimee in Bad Moon Rising or Aisling Grey and Drake in Aisling Grey, Guardian.
Cian and Moira in The Circle Trilogy are one of my major favorites, as is Fox and Layla in The Sign of Seven Trilogy from the same author. Of the two, Fox and Layla are healthier if only because they sought to compromise and, even with their rocky road, actually talked out their issues. Cian, made choices for Moira that, while for the best, weren't his to make. Tony and Sue from The Sazi are somewhere in the middle. Tony does better than a lot of male leads though in that he tries to give Sue the tools to stand on her own and take care of herself. He tries to build her confidence up and show her she's stronger than she believes.
Almost every couple I like, there's an excuse somewhere for why the male character is an overprotective, slightly controlling partner. Even in one of the best situations – Tony and Sue in The Sazi – we still have an excuse for Tony to be Sue's shield. Namely Tony's mafia connections and Sazi status. It might be because I read “Beauty and the Beast” type stories too much. After all, when the female character is “just a human”, it only “makes sense” for her supernatural partner to protect her, right?
Let me just take a deep breath and let it out slowly here. Because just saying “wrong” sounds a bit harsh. Supposedly we women are who read romance novels the most, and I can't quite get why so many people see overprotective as “cute and sweet”. Is it wanting someone else to be responsible for a change? Is it some hammered in old-fashioned notion of “real women let their men take care of them”? Yes, in some books it's common for the overprotective male to be played for laughs, because his partner is more than capable of taking care of herself. It comes off as the male doesn't really trust her, because if he did, he'd trust she can handle things. And if it's a lack of actual skill, then help her gain the skills instead of borrowing yours.
I don't want to turn this into an essay as I'm sure there's a word count limit here, so I'm going to wrap this up. My favorite fictional couple doesn't exist yet. Because my favorite couple is one that makes mistakes, owns up to those mistakes, communicates, compromises (and not in the sense of “S/he realized how wrong they were and how right their partner was”), and is in short supportive, accepting, and understanding of each other. They trust that each of them is an adult that can make their own choices and will ask for help if they need it. As of yet, I haven't seen it. Maybe I'll have to write it myself.